For a gathering of the smartest people at the cutting edge of technology, business, academia and the media, the irony — in a good way — is that the oldest of old school lessons was never more clear: there is no substitute for doing things in person.
Yes, it’s a cliché. But it’s true. It’s hard to overstate how important – and necessary – it is to be on the ground, shoulder-to-shoulder with colleagues, customers, prospects and anyone genuinely interested in what a company and its people are up to.
The specter of Covid continues to loom large and certainly made this in-person event more of an anomaly – and something to celebrate just by its mere existence – than it was in the pre-Covid days. And while no one enjoys the required testing and vaccine protocols, everyone who showed up dealt with them and got down to business, collaborating and learning.
We’ve done some debriefing internally and wanted to share some of the observations, learnings and cool stuff that our on-site team experienced. Yes, we’re a vendor and not an unbiased observer. But, as one of our customers mentioned during a session we hosted on the application of quantum technology in chemistry:
One of the things that has surprised me is how good the community is around quantum…it’s such a friendly and forward-looking community.
Brian Chol Soo Standen, Global Head of Next Generation Computing at BASF
So, in the spirit of being a contributing member to the community and sharing things from which we can all benefit, here are some of our quick takes:
People showed up, but Covid definitely kept the numbers down. Props to QC Ware for holding strong to an in-person event when it would have been very easy to go virtual (like last year’s event, summarized here). The unfortunate arrival of the Omicron variant in the weeks just before the event clearly put a damper on traveling to Santa Clara, especially for those outside the U.S.
Good vibes despite… everything. The overall “vibe” was good. As one of our colleagues noted: “I’d say that the overall vibe is still quite collaborative. I have not encountered any hostility. Most people are open to working together and have a ‘we’re all in the same boat’ mentality.”
Workforce development is on every company’s mind – quantum and enterprise alike. Not a shocker, but in person this issue came into very clear focus. We have a catchphrase here that “People like [insert any Zapata employee’s name] don’t grow on trees!” We have to think that just about every other quantum and enterprise organization has a similar saying, or just plain feels that same pain.
Enterprise participants came, but it is still very much an industry crowd. With the caveat that we no doubt would have seen more enterprise attendees without the Covid effect, the enterprise crowd was still pretty sparse. It makes sense, though. It is overwhelmingly in the interest of vendors like Zapata to show up and show up strong (19 of us!) since many of us are chasing the same small pool of potential customers. But for the most part, enterprise leaders don’t have the sense of urgency to take time out, travel in spite of the Covid danger and meet the quantum community in its early days of pre-glory.
Creativity matters. Quantum companies are all trying to be creative with the solutions they offer just as enterprises are trying to be creative in how they can obtain a competitive advantage (you know, like with quantum computing!). We saw some of that. But we also heard from another quantum vendor praising our…marketing(?!). Not only that, but it was a cool video marketing idea from over a year ago that a bunch of Zapatistas put together called “Squeezing more out of NISQ Devices.” Check it out: Zapata Research announcement: Squeezing more out of NISQ devices
The quantum industry has not been standing still. To quote one of our colleagues: “There is an explosion of startups in the field occupying all kinds of interesting niches and angles.” And not just the startups that have appeared on the scene since last year’s Q2B – many of the “old guard” companies (which in quantum computing qualifies as more than one year in business) showed their newest stuff. This includes Zapata and our Orquestra® platform for building and deploying quantum-enabled™ applications. We offered demos of the new Orquestra Studio interface for quantum-classical workflows and, as mentioned above, got the kind of feedback and reactions that make in-person, deskside communication irreplaceable.
Our colleague — and Quantum Software Engineer extraordinaire! — Michał Stęchły summed Q2B up best: “Everyone seems to be aware that there’s a huge risk associated with every single company, hardware model and product. But, at the same time, there’s recognition that the industry as a whole has a bright future, even given all the uncertainties about the timelines.”
See you in 2022!
Sharing our understanding of the current state of AI and quantum.